back to article Tiger Moth: Old school flying without all those pesky flaps, brakes and instruments

Stepping up from our usual car reviews, we’ve got an aeroplane this weekend. The guest pilot is Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, who runs the Fear of Landing website. What’s it like flying a Tiger Moth? Absolutely AMAZING! I don’t think I can do the experience justice, but I have to try. You can imagine my excitement when Into the Blue …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first flight in a plane was a Tiger Moth.

    I had to sit in the fertiliser hopper, I think Mum was a wee bit dubious about that.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      My dad learnt to fly in Tiger Moths.

      1. Jim 59

        My dad learnt to fly in Tiger Moths.

        Mine too. The RAF used Tiger Moths to train pilots in WW2. My Dad joined up and was shipped out to Rhodesia (via Sierra Leone and S. Africa), where the RAF had a large training camp on the outskirts of Bulawayo. There he attended maths and engineering lectures as well as learning to fly. His recollections of the Tiger Moth did sound a bit 'seat of the pants'. He mentioned looping-the-loop and, when upside down, being held/suspended in place by the belts only. There was also a crash into a hillside at some point, but no injuries resulting.

        Hillside Training Camp, Bulawayo is now an agricultural show ground. I visited as a tourist in the late 90s and the area was very pleasant, much as Dad had described. I still have his flying log book and engineering notes.

  2. Denarius Silver badge

    Ah yes, aerobatics

    Tigers are lovely for that. Slow and genteel compared to a Chipmunk or modern glider. Nowhere near the G loads in loops and very sedate going vertical to level. Only had the one flight but did enjoy it. Nice write up Sylvia

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Ah yes, aerobatics

      chipmunk. I remember flying those in the 80s as part of the air cadets. Couldn't see a damn thing out the front and landing was fun, still they could pull some G; I still remember pushing down 20d get to 130 and pull back 3/4 for the loop or down 20 120 for the barrel roll - good times (jump jumping sir!) , those and getting advanced glider in a mk3 (winch launch and watch the tubes!). It wasn't the same when we got the "ultra modern grobs"

  3. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More of this sort of thing please elReg :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, especially as it's not just a great story, but well written too.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    A proper aeroplane. Now I have to book a flight.

    1. Ilmarinen

      Re: Oh dear

      "Now I have to book a flight"

      Go for it - flying is the best thing :-)

      What I would suggest to anyone wanting a trial flight (Tiger Moth or any other light aircraft, glider, microlight, etc) either for themselves or as a present is *not* to buy any of these gift vouchers. Instead, look for a local flying school or gliding club and contact them direct.

      You will pay less, won't have to drive miles to the nearest place that takes the vouchers and will probably have a better time as you are not just some punter with an "experience" voucher. By talking to them you can arange to turn up on a good weather day rather than booking weeks ahead and taking whatever weather you get. For example, yesterday was a cracking day (in Cambs anyway) but today was pants.

      Or, if you know anyone who flies, ask them - they will be happy to point you in the right direction or maybe even take you for a bimble for the cost of the fuel.

    2. Vic

      Re: Oh dear

      Now I have to book a flight.

      That's exactly how I feel...

      I'm still trying to find someone that flies Tiger Moths at more reasonable prices, though - I'm used to getting an hour in a Decathlon for under £200. Old Sarum offered me a 20-minute sortie for about the same amount[1]...


      [1] The museum to which I belong is right next door to Go Fly. I went in and interrogated them.

  5. aahjnnot

    I am so jealous...

    That sounds like a truly awesome day out. I can't begin to describe how jealous this article made me feel!

  6. imanidiot Silver badge

    All of the above

    I can only just repeat what has been said before. I'm now jealous and want to try myself!

  7. jonathan keith

    Nothng like it

    I flew from Duxford in one of these a while back. One of the finest experiences of my life, without a shadow of a doubt.

  8. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Reminds me of an interview

    Chap on Radio 4 years ago. He kept a case of champagne in the passenger cockpit. Flew his Tigermoth round the country to see people. So he could just put down in a farmer's field nearby, and knock on the door of the farmhouse, with a big smile and a couple of bottles of bubbly. "Mind if I park in your field today old chap?" No one refused.

  9. Mark 85


    A proper airplane where the pilot flies the plane instead of the plane flying the pilot.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flown one too...

    at Duxford on a summer afternoon a couple of years ago.

    Super way to see the countryside, 2000ft up, Cambridge on one side, open views right down to the Cotswolds on the other. The plane is wonderfully gentle but responds so well.

    The best part was when swifts and swallows came alongside and played around in the wingtip vortices, flying in and out of the turbulence and chirping to their friends as they tumbled, you could hear them through the sound of the engine. There aren't many planes (maybe LSA or microlights) which fly slowly enough for that to happen.

    Thanks for the article, reminding me of a favourite day. I got the smell of oil and avgas the moment I read the second page and the engine start sequence.

  11. MajorTom

    Fabulous article for a Saturday morning!

    I felt like I was sitting in the cockpit. What joy.

    Also...that airspeed indicator photo was spot on.

  12. Turtle

    What I Would Like To Say.

    "we’ve got an aeroplane this weekend"

    How I would love to be able to say this myself...

  13. ecofeco Silver badge


    Post of the week!

    Excellent find, article and video.

    These were aircraft made back in the day when men were men and aircraft were barely more than jeeps with wings.

  14. werdsmith Silver badge

    I have done the Duxford experience, and enjoyed just as much as the others mentioned.

    I had already done hundreds of hours on Cessnas and Piper nosewheel planes, and was so pleasantly surprised that the 1930s biplane and more responsive handling. Lovely gentle spin too.

    Of course the more "modern" spamcans had damping in their control links to smooth out hamfisted inputs, but the moth was a joy by comparison.

  15. Wombling_Free
    Thumb Up

    Blue above, blue below

    I've done two flights in a Tiger Moth; one aerobatic flight over the Pacific Ocean off the Gold Coast, Queensland; and one flight where I had the controls for 20 mins over the hinterland west of Coolangatta.

    Love it; love it; love it. The Tiger is I think my favorite aircraft ever - they are the absolute spirit of flying.

  16. Sokolik

    No flaps?

    To land, how does one slow to a safe speed *and* maintain safe descent rate w/o flaps? Did I miss something? Thank you.

    1. Vic

      Re: No flaps?

      To land, how does one slow to a safe speed *and* maintain safe descent rate w/o flaps?

      Practice :-)

      Flapless descents are standard practice, and are a required capability for the PPL, even if you're flying an aircraft fited with flaps. They're very useful if it's a bit tubulent on approach...

      This is the aircraft I've had most fun in. It has no flaps either...


      1. Sokolik

        Re: No flaps?

        Vic, thanks. Had no idea. Guess I'll have to add that to my training regimen in MSFSX (yes, I confess, I am not a real pilot!)

        1. Sokolik

          Re: No flaps?

          Vic, now I think on it, isn't it like the tale of Goldie Locks and the Three Angles of Attack?

          this one too steep,

          this one too shallow,

          this one *just right*

          Hope I've got that right.. Thanks again.

          1. Vic

            Re: No flaps?

            isn't it like the tale of Goldie Locks and the Three Angles of Attack?

            I suspect you mean "Glide Slope".

            Angle of Attack only really has two states - less than the critical angle, or more than the critical angle. An aerofoil with an AoA greater than the critical angle is stalled. If you didn't do that deliberately, that might well be a problem...


      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: No flaps?

        "To land, how does one slow to a safe speed *and* maintain safe descent rate w/o flaps?"

        You also have the option of a side-slip if your type is suited to it (and you can get away with it on just about anything despite what is said about control surfaces being shield from airflow).

      3. wankeler

        Re: No flaps?

        Raise nose, tweak throttle, slow down.

        Flaps do three things mostly:

        1) Make the wing better at flying slower by changing its shape - but you can still land faster

        2) Add drag to slow you down more aggressively - but you can still slow down with throttle / pitch

        3) Alter the effective rigging angle of the wings to lower the nose to give you a better view of the ground - side slip lets you see past a high nose

        Personally it the Extra 300L for me. Didn't stop smiling for two days after my fist time.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Had a trial glider flight once. The pilot said it was very good at acrobatics. I indicated that it was not my thing - even going high on swings as a child made me ill. Alton Towers would be a nightmare. I just can't handle motion disorientation.

    Part way through the flight he decided to demonstrate the glider's agility. Suddenly the horizon was now vertical. I controlled the panic but was not pleased.

    This article's description of the acrobatics brought back that memory too clearly.

    However - I love the thrill of take-off and landing in planes of any size.

  18. earl grey

    Laughing and crying as i read this

    And yes, i'm jealous too. Great bit of writing.

  19. Jim Ettles 1
    Thumb Up

    More Please

    Great article. It took me back to my Tiger Moth flights. Instant student pilot again, landing is an activity over which you have influence but not really control. A very special experience. It made flying the spam can (in this case a Piper) home seem prosaic.

  20. 0laf Silver badge

    I also flew in Chipmonks and winch launched gliders as a Cadet in the early 90s. Lots of fun. We all loved the gliders the best but it would be rather nice to fly in a Tiger Moth.

    1. Deckmunki

      Me too - I flew the Chipmunk as my first AEF in the cadets, then was lucky enough to try the Bulldog (where you got to actually _see_ your instructor, because it was side-by-side!), and was also lucky enough to get onto a winch-launch glider course at Kenley.

      Them's were good times :)

      I've re-started my PPL training recently - one hour a week isn't much but it's the best fun I've had with my clothes on in a long time. Briliant stuff :)

      First solo vid, in case anybody fancies a laugh at me making a tit of myself ;) -

      1. Vic

        First solo vid

        Excellent christmas present to yourself. Congratulations!


  21. Valerion


    Many years ago, early on a sunny summer Friday afternoon my boss (owner of the company) - an amateur pilot - came over and said "enough work, we're going flying".

    And sure enough, we drove down to the airfield and spent a glorious afternoon flying around the south-east of England in his Stampe - which is a very similar plane to the Tiger Moth.

    Best afternoon ever! And also slightly terrifying when he gave me the controls. I gave them back rather quickly. Of course he then did a bunch of aerobatics which didn't exactly stop the terror!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stampe

      My wife and I used to work at the same company, and one day our boss did the same thing for several of the folks in the office, including my wife. The ***** happened to choose a day when I was on a business trip, I was very envious to get that "guess where I've been" email...

  22. Pete Maclean

    Thanks for republishing this! Most enjoyable.

  23. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Some years back I was at ICAO:EGBP on business when one of the people I was working with discovered I was a licenced radio amateur and as a result I got invited for a flight in his Tiger Moth in the hope that I could help him track down the cause of intermittent catastrophic radio-interference on his "clip-it-to-the-instrument-panel" Icom air-band comms radio.

    There's something slightly disconcerting about taking-off into the wind and realising you've just got airborne at barely above walking-pace.

    I didn't get much 'proper' work done that afternoon but we did identify the problem with the magneto wiring.

  24. Tikimon

    Lost my virginity to a Tiger Moth

    Hey, as first times go, it was more fun and less stressful than the other thing. I had someone experienced to handle technique (lol) and I got to simply enjoy the flight!

    My first flight was in 1974 in a Tiger Moth at an airshow. Twenty years later I made it back for another go, but that plane had crashed the year before and I didn't get to ride it again. You keep a special place in your heart for your first time, I will never forget that yellow bird!

  25. aberglas

    Tigers did have flaps

    Actually they were call "Slats" and would come out automatically at the front of the upper wing at slow speeds. There is a lever to lock them down during Aeros. Most also have brakes (and breaks as well).

    But Tigers are like the good old axe with three new heads and six new handles. I flew one with four obviously different wings, and the fibre glass engine cowling might not have been original. The slats were often removed as they were not at all necessary.

    They are a joy to fly. Open cockpit, responsive yet forgiving, would spin like a top but pull out easily. Needs a bit of rudder in the turn, bit scary for a tin can flyer.

    They are actually very difficult to land properly, 3 points together, because there is not enough elevator authority to pull the tail all the way down. So you have to snap the stick back at just the right time to build up enough angular momentum but without launching back into the sky.

    The most frightening part is starting them. By hand, of course. That prop comes flying round very fast and anything that gets in its way will be neatly chopped off.

    The great shame is that they are *so* expensive. Here in Oz I used to hire one for $180/hour long ago, but the price has tripled. In the UK triple that again. For a machine that doesn't have 1/10th as many parts as a basic car, it really is rags, sticks and wires.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bought my dad a couple of tiger moth flights for birthdays - he absolutley loved them. One one flight the weather was nice so he was able to take the controls, and on the other it was a bit rougher so the pilot kept them, but spent some time chasing the spitfire that was up at the same time.

    I really wish I could have gotten my dad a spitfire flight, but that was too expensive :(

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